CONGRESSWOMAN ELISE STEFANIK
H.R. 512 is expected to be considered on the floor of the House on Tuesday, September 28, 2010, under a motion to suspend the rules, requiring a two-thirds majority vote for passage. The legislation was introduced by Rep. Susan Davis (D-CA) on January 14, 2009.
H.R. 512 would prohibit any chief state election administration official from taking part in the political management or campaign of any official vying for federal office, except under certain specified circumstances. Under current law, there are no prohibitions on those activities.
The bill would define an "active part in political management or in a political campaign" as:
• Serving as a member of an authorized committee of a candidate for federal office;
• The use of official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with or affecting the results of an election for federal office;
• The solicitation, acceptance or receipt of a contribution from any person on behalf of a candidate for federal office; and
• Any other act which would be prohibited under the Hatch Act, which prohibits federal employees from participating in political campaigns, except for the Hatch Act's prohibition on running for public office.
The bill would exempt chief election administration officials who are running for federal office, or those who have an immediate family member who is a federal candidate.
In almost every state, the secretary of state or an appointed official administers elections. Supporters of this legislation argue that chief state election officials serving as state campaign chairs can create the appearance of a conflict of interest, even if none actually exists. Because of this perceived conflict, several states—including Colorado, Massachusetts, Ohio and Virginia—have enacted laws limiting the political activity of election officials.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that implementing H.R. 512 would cost less than $500,000 in 2010. That amount would include one-time computer expenses as well as the cost of issuing new regulations and enforcement activities to implement this provision. In future years, the general administrative costs of the FEC would increase by negligible amounts.